Part of being a landlord is understanding that not every tenant is perfect, far from it! In some situations, you will be forced to give a tenant the boot which can cause a myriad of emotions with your renter who may take out their frustrations on your property.
Recovering from a bad tenant is never easy. In many cases, you get stiffed and end up having to foot the bill for the extra costs necessary to repair your property from a bad tenant. Nevertheless, landlord rights do exist, and you do have some recourse should a tenant trash your property after leaving on bad terms. But what can a landlord do if a tenant damages property?
While implementing solid tenant screening protocols and proactively addressing tenant damage can help mitigate the losses you might incur as the result of tenant damage, it’s important to understand that recouping your costs might involve legal action.
Understanding Tenant Responsibilities
Being told that your lease isn’t going to be renewed or that you are being evicted can be a bitter pill to swallow. Many bad tenants tend to lash out and destroy property before they vacate your rental.
Luckily, if you’re dealing with tenant damage to property, Ontario has systems in place.
Tenant Damage and Legal Recourse
Tenants are required to repair or pay for the repair of any damage to your rental property that is outside normal use. The law also holds the tenant liable for damage caused by their guests or other persons living in the rental unit.
If your tenant intentionally damages your property, the damage deposit is the first thing that can help offset the repair costs.1 You also have grounds for eviction if you haven’t already given them the boot.
The larger problem of tenant damage to property, is when there is a wider disparity between the deposit held and the total damage caused. In many cases property owners choose to eat the added costs for repairs which can be a bit frustrating.1
However, the smart approach is to always first ask the bad tenant to cover the costs of the excess damage. The request should be in writing with pictures. Also include a formal bill or invoices from reputable companies itemizing all the costs required to cure the damage.
What to Do If a Tenant Damages Property
Ontario is a friendly place, but chances are slim that the tenant will actually agree to remedying the situation but as mentioned above, reaching out first creates a paper trail which will give you additional firepower when you take the next step.
Appealing to the local Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB)
Once you file your application for damages with the LTB, a hearing date will be set which will allow you to plead your case.2 While it does provide the tenant the opportunity to explain why they disagree with your application, you already have pictures and previous documentation showing that you tried to remedy the issue independent of the proceedings. The LBT can require the tenant to pay damages related to the matter.2
Other provinces have programs that favor landlords a bit more. Alberta is a fitting example as it has the Residential Tenancy Dispute Resolution Service that can award landlords up to $50,000 to resolve a tenant dispute.1
Small Claims Court
The last option would be to take the case to small claims court depending on the amount of rental property damage by the tenant. In Ontario, any amount above $35,000 must go to the Superior court where you can plead your case and try to obtain a judgment against your tenant.3
Evicting a Tenant Due to Property Damage
Choosing to evict a tenant who has caused damage to your property is certainly a possibility. However, ground your expectations. For example, in Ontario tenants have the right to automatically appeal a request for eviction on the grounds of property damage.1
The Eviction Process
If you want to move forward with an eviction after damage to rental property by a tenant, start out by informing the tenant of the problem.2 Make them aware of the damage they have caused and ask them to correct it. Put everything you discuss with them in writing.
If the tenant doesn’t remedy the situation, then you have the right to provide them with a notice to end the tenancy. It’s important to use the correct and approved forms when providing notice.2 Also keep in mind if you can apply for an order of eviction if you escalate the issue to the LTB.
Understand that bad tenants often know how to abuse the legal system and, in some cases, use it as an opportunity to live rent-free for a period. While this can be frustrating, working the system is the best way to recoup your costs.
Landlord Responsibilities and Repair Obligations
Part of your responsibilities as a landlord is to keep your rental property in proper working order. Hence you cannot require a tenant to pay items covered as normal wear and tear.
That said, if a bad tenant does cause excessive damage to a property, you have some discretion over what items need to be addressed.
Differentiating Between Cosmetic and Essential Repairs
For example, if there is damage that is purely cosmetic, you might not want to waste your time fighting to recoup your loss or cure the damage done.
However, if the damage results in your rental failing to meet health, safety, and maintenance standards outlined by both municipal and provincial law, then you are required to remedy those items whether you recoup the costs from your bad tenant or not.2
Examples of Repair Obligations
Some examples of systems include electrical and plumbing work, heating systems, structural items such as walls and ceilings, and even windows, doors, and locks.2
1 CTVNews.ca Staff. (2018, June 9). Landlord rights: What to do if a tenant trashes the place. CTVNews. Retrieved April 6, 2022, from https://www.ctvnews.ca/business/landlord-rights-what-to-do-if-a-tenant-trashes-the-place-1.3966744
2 Tribunals Ontario. (2018, July). Brochure: Maintenance and Repairs. Landlord and Tenant Board. https://tribunalsontario.ca/documents/ltb/Brochures/Maintenance%20and%20Repairs%20(EN).pdf
3 Simon Shields, LLB. (2020, September 1). LEGAL GUIDE: RESIDENTIAL LANDLORD AND TENANT LAW (ONTARIO) – Ch.16 Civil Remedies. Retrieved April 6, 2022, from http://www.isthatlegal.ca/index.php?name=civil_remedies.tenant_law_ontario
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